Imminent ban on milk imports likely

The agriculture minister has indicated that restrictions on imported dairy products may be the only short-term solution to prevent the collapse of the local dairy sector.

14 October 2021 | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

After almost a decade of knocking on government doors to rescue the dairy sector, the government has expressed willingness to intervene.

Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, in his response to questions in the National Assembly recently, acknowledged that the local dairy industry requires urgent government intervention to save it from total collapse, according to the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU).

The union says Schlettwein indicated that restrictions on imported dairy products, which could be implemented through the Import and Export Control Act administered by the trade ministry, seem to be the only viable measure that could be implemented in the short term to rescue the ailing industry.

Subsidies unfeasible

An option considered earlier, of a government subsidy of N$2 per litre of raw milk to ensure a level playing field for local farmers, proved to be unfeasible. An annual amount of about N$40 million would have been required for this purpose.

“It is envisaged that an immediate restriction on imported dairy products could not only provide the urgent relief required by the sector, but also safeguard against unfair competition, improve production and develop the value chain and downstream value addition,” the NAU said.

The union said the minister further indicated that relevant ministries, agencies and offices would be consulted to identify and address all implications of this proposed measure.

Furthermore, the minister indicated that the industry and its subsequent value chain is included in the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s comprehensive agricultural development programme as an important pillar which can contribute to the socio-economic wellbeing of Namibians, enhance household food security and nutrition, and create more employment.

In light of this, the sector is deemed very important to the Namibian government, and specifically the agricultural sector.

Seeing is believing

“Following these announcements by Schlettwein in the National Assembly, the industry can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“However, the intention to protect the local industry still needs to be put into practice and until such time, the industry will continue to shed jobs, lose farmers, further reduce milk production and continue to sell dairy cattle herds,” said the NAU.

It is therefore critical that the government immediately start the consultations and preparatory work required to enable the introduction of the envisaged measures, it added.

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